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Joe Henderson: When political opportunity knocks, Lisa Montelione gets busy

You can never take a moment off in politics, so when Lisa Montelione saw an opportunity Tuesday morning, she got busy.

A frisky black bear had climbed up a tree about two blocks from her home in north Tampa. While authorities worked to safely remove the animal, Montelione was thinking ahead.

“I told them they better not harm a hair on that bear’s head. That’s a constituent,” she said with a laugh. “When they get him out of that tree, I’m going to see if he’s registered (to vote).”

We’ll let the Hillsborough Supervisor of Elections sort that one out. In the meantime, Montelione has bigger things in mind. After five years in the Tampa City Council, Montelione, a Democrat, is running for state House District 63.

It is considered a swing district and has been targeted by state Democrats eager to cut into the GOP’s large House margin in Tallahassee, and Montelione is popular in the area.

She made her mark in local politics by being an outspoken advocate for infrastructure needs in her district. She pushed particularly hard to improve stormwater drainage in an area that was traditionally plagued by street flooding after heavy rains.

She first has to beat fellow Democrat Mike Reedy in the August primary, and then would face Republican incumbent Shawn Harrison.

Harrison, as reported by Mitch Perry of FloridaPolitics.com, picked up an interesting endorsement Monday from City Council Chairman Frank Reddick, a Democrat.

“I enjoyed serving with Frank,” Montelione said. “I have a great deal of respect for him. It’s just business as usual. In politics, you can’t take anything personally.”

Harrison raised some eyebrows last year when he broke from the Republican Party line to vote for Medicaid expansion in the state. He explained then it was because it would benefit many needy people in his district.

“He may have voted to expand Medicaid, but he also voted to approve a state budget that didn’t include it,” Montelione said.

According to financial filings, Montelione has raised about $72,000 so far, nearly three times what Reedy has raised but about half of the $155,000 in Harrison’s coffers.

Montelione has endorsements from the Florida AFL-CIO and the Tampa Firefighters local association. No word yet if the Association of Bears Up a Tree is ready to endorse.

She’s working on that one.

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Joe Henderson has had a 45-year career in newspapers, including the last nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. He has covered a large variety of things, primarily in sports but also hard news. The two intertwined in the decadelong search to bring Major League Baseball to the area. Henderson was also City Hall reporter for two years and covered all sides of the sales tax issue that ultimately led to the construction of Raymond James Stadium. He served as a full-time sports columnist for about 10 years before moving to the metro news columnist for the last 4 ½ years. Henderson has numerous local, state and national writing awards. He has been married to his wife, Elaine, for nearly 35 years and has two grown sons — Ben and Patrick.

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I have a 45-year career in newspapers, including nearly 42 years at The Tampa Tribune. Florida is wacky, wonderful, unpredictable and a national force. It's a treat to have a front-row seat for it all.

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Florida Politics is a statewide, new media platform covering campaigns, elections, government, policy, and lobbying in Florida. This platform and all of its content are owned by Extensive Enterprises Media.

Publisher: Peter Schorsch

Contributors & reporters: Phil Ammann, Jim Rosica, A.G. Gancarski, Joe Henderson, Janelle Irwin, Dan McAuliffe, Jacob Ogles, Scott Powers, Bob Sparks, Andrew Wilson.
Email: Peter@FloridaPolitics.com
Phone: (727) 642-3162
Address: 204 37th Avenue North #182
St. Petersburg, Florida 33704

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